The Community's City Center Plan

On December 3, 2013, the Mayor and City Council authorized staff to enter into a contract with Urban Partners, an economics and planning firm from Philadelphia, PA, to undertake an economic analysis and prepare an implementation plan for Hagerstown’s 2012 Sustainable Community Plan. This project is 100% grant funded from a grant from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
The 2012 Sustainable Community Plan carried forward the goals and strategies recommended in the Downtown Element of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan and then further refined the recommended strategies with input of a community stakeholders group. While the City has routinely undertaken community and economic development projects and initiatives intended to implement our downtown plan (e.g., support for new and expanded cultural and educational anchors, parking and streetscape improvement projects, blight eradication projects, incentive programs for private investors, etc.), it is clear that community awareness and support for our downtown vision and plan needs to be raised, as well as investor confidence in the strategies recommended to implement our vision.

Project Consultant
The City received 14 responses to our Request for Proposals for this project. Following interviews of a short list of firms, the City’s selection committee recommended Urban Partners for the project. Their proposal was not only the low bid, but the consultant team was the Committee’s preferred team based on their breadth of experience with similar projects in downtown environments, the individuals involved in the interview process, and their approach for our project. Staff contacted representatives from six communities with prior experience working with Urban Partners and their sub-consultant, Brown & Keener/RBA. Each had glowing comments about their experiences with Urban Partners and Brown & Keener. They all said they would work with these consultants again, and, in fact, many of them have worked with them on multiple projects. One particular long association is Urban Partners’ 20 year relationship with the City of Savannah, GA. Representatives indicated that Jim Hartling, the founding partner of Urban Partners, is quite skilled at combining ambitious ideas with pragmatism and bringing people together in formulating strategic action plans to turn around or enhance downtown economies. Mr. Hartling has both public and private sector experience in economic development, has undertaken development projects in addition to assisting clients to assess the financial feasibility of undertaking catalyst projects, serves on the board of a number of Philadelphia non-profits related to economic and community development, and teaches on this topic at the University of Pennsylvania.

Project Approach

The scope of work for the project includes not only an economic analysis of Hagerstown’s 2012 Sustainable Community Plan, but also a community engagement exercise. This exercise is intended to further develop tactics and strategies to implement the plan’s objectives and build community support for our downtown vision and projects intended to catalyze revitalization. As a result of their analysis and the community engagement process, the consultant will prepare a cost benefit analysis of identified catalyst projects to spark revitalization of Hagerstown’s City Center and an implementation plan to achieve our vision for downtown. The project will be completed by the end of June 2014.

Community Engagement

Community engagement will include individual interviews with community stakeholders, several focus group meetings in February, a public input workshop in late February, and a public information forum on the proposed report in mid-June. The Mayor and Councilman Brubaker will work with City planning and economic development staff to advise the consultant as the project progresses. Planning staff will provide periodic progress reports to the Planning Commission as project milestones are reached. As of early April, Urban Partners conducted individual interviews from a list of 45 local stakeholders, met with 8 focus groups with a total of 97 local stakeholders, met with the Planning Commission, and held a public input forum at the library on February 27th with approximately 80 members of the public. In addition, Urban Partners undertook an on-line housing survey to gauge local interest in living downtown and nearly 400 people participated.

Catalyst Recommendations
On April 8th, Urban Partners presented to the Mayor and City Council eight (8) proposed catalyst initiatives for further study. These initiatives included the following:

1. New Office Development and Recruitment
2. Maryland Theatre Expansion Project
3. USMH Expansion Support
4. Hotel/Conference Center/Heritage Center/Commemorative Park
5. Linking City Park/Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and A&E District with Trail and New Housing
6. Expanded Downtown Arts/Events Programming
7. Expanded Operations of the City Farmer's Market
8. Expanded & Targeted Home Ownership Support

Click here for more details on each of the projects.

On April 8th, the Mayor and City Council authorized Urban Partners to move forward with detailed development analyses of their recommendations. It is anticipated that additional local stakeholder input will be sought as these analyses are developed.

The final report was presented to the Mayor & Council on June 17, 2014.
The Community's City Center Plan - Presented 6/17/14

Urban Partners Presentation to Mayor and Council - 6/17/14

Catalyst Projects Map - 8/20/14

Presentation to MDP - 6/5/14

Urban Partners Proposal

Related Documents

2010-2011 City Census Report Hagerstown Sustainable Community Plan 2012
City Center Building Statistics 2013 LDR A&E District Plan 2001
City Center Employment Summary 2012 City Initiatives for Downtown Revitalization
City Strategic Plan for City Center 2011 Developing A&E Cluster in Washington County 2012
Downtown Master Parking Plan 2012 Downtown Master Planning Report 3-4-2013
Downtown Element - 2008 Comp Plan Hagerstown's Plan for the Downtown 8-12-2013
Economic Development Element - 2008 Comp Plan Mayor & Council Presentation - City Center 10-25-2011
Plan Synopsis of Downtown Element Community Assets Map
Hagerstown A&E District Plan 1999 Downtown Historic District Resource Ranking Map
Hagerstown City Zoning Map City Center Ground Floor Use Map
Hagerstown Local Historic Districts Map City Center Zoning Map
Hagerstown Sustainable Community Area Map City Center Vacant & Underutilized Properties Map